General Plan 2010       Calendar/Syllabus 2010
A Question to Consider: Holistic Biology or Biological Holism?

At the core of holism lies the desire to understand natural systems as functional wholes, rather than a sum of parts. Thus, it is not sufficient to simply recognize the different facets of complexity. Instead, we need to discover and examine the generally hidden connections that hold all together. To this end, a large part of the course will involve interrogating the reductionist methodology that has driven scientific advancement for much of the last several hundred years. Ecology provides an exceptionally rich set of problems that merit a holistic consideration. Holistic Biology will utilize the rich ecology of Monterey Bay and Baja California to provide students of varied backgrounds with a holistic understanding of complex natural systems.

Holistic Biology will consider many questions, including the way in which modern institutions break down learning into discreet departments such as "physics," "math," or "history." Holism looks through the porous nature of these divisions and in doing so creates a new approach to interdisciplinary learning. Subjects that traditionally fall into different disciplines will be combined in new ways. For instance, a nights reading may include a scientific paper on climate change, a section from a Steinbeck novel, and a selection of Chinese poetry. All of these resources will be brought together to explore common issues and themes in the texts.

This course will be, as a rule of thumb, very hands-on and student motivated. Students will engage in real-world projects that stretch their notions of conventional academics and their comfort zones -- intellectual and physical. In last year's Biolgical Holism course projects and assignments included creating and presenting vignettes, writing for a newspaper, organizing a panel discussion on squid-fishery issues, mussel collecting on the open coast (and eating), and a visiting the laboratory of Ed Ricketts- and that was only a five unit course. We hope that Holistic Biology will be the most innovative, exciting course you will ever take at Stanford.

Power Point for John Pearse lecture of April 5, 2010 [6MB]
Invertebrate Field Guide for Hopkins [0.8MB PDF]